Low-carb diets have been a hot debate in the health industry for many years. First coming to light in a string of celebrity diets and A-list body transformations, a low-carb diet is now widely accepted as being a great way to lose weight while still enjoying flavourful food.
Let’s get things straight from the off - you need carbohydrates as part of a balanced diet, especially if you’re doing lots of exercise. However, there are ways and means of getting your daily quota of carbs and it is possible to make subtle substitutes to some of the ingredients in your favourite meals in order to remove unhealthy carbs.
Before we delve into some of our wonderful low-carb creations, let's explore the evidence for the benefits of a low-carb diet.
Low-carb diets lead to greater weight loss
A low-carb diet may have a greater effect on weight loss compared to a low-fat diet, a study by Samaha FF et al, published in the New England Journal of Medicine 2003, found. The study involved two groups of morbidly obese participants where one group was placed on a low-carb diet and the other on a low-fat diet. The subjects on the low-carb diet lost an average of 12.8 lbs, while the low-fat group only lost 4.2 lbs over the same time period. The low-carb group’s insulin levels also decreased by around 27% compared to the low-fat group, whose levels actually increased slightly.
Additionally, a study by Aude YW et al (published in JAMA Internal Medicine) also found evidence to support the benefits of a low-carb diet. 60 overweight subjects were randomly allocated to either a low-carb or low-fat diet. At the end of the study the individuals on the low-carb diet lost an average of 13.6lbs compared to the low-fat group who lost an average of 7.5lbs. The waist-to-hip ratio also improved in the low-carb group, whereas it did not change in the low-fat group.
Low-carb diets curb your hunger cravings
One of the most painful aspects of dieting is the hunger and cravings that come with restricting yourself from certain foods. As low-carb diets usually increase the amount of protein consumed, you will feel more satisfied from the meals that you eat and your cravings should be reduced. In addition to this, you can combat carb cravings by making some substitute fakeaways that taste delicious and are packed full of goodness.
While a low-carb diet has been linked to weight loss it is important to remember the role that carbohydrates play in our bodies. We need carbohydrates for energy, which our bodies need to run. Don’t think of carbohydrates as an unhealthy macronutrient, but instead steer away from processed and refined types such as white bread and pasta. Make sure that you are eating a balanced diet filled with protein, good carbs and healthy fats and be sure to eat plenty of carbohydrates on days that you are training in the gym.
If you are unsure about any aspects of your nutrition then why not have a chat with one of our personal trainers in club? Our personal trainers will often give you your first consultation free and are qualified to provide nutritional advice that could really help to improve your diet.
Summer carb substitutes
Here are a few of our favourite carb substitutes that are perfect to rustle up for a summertime treat.
The many uses of cauliflower
Who would have imagined that such an underappreciated vegetable could create so many delicious dishes? When grated or blended, cauliflower creates a texture similar to rice which can be manipulated to form a number of different consistencies once the water is squeezed out or just served as an alternative to rice.
Cauliflower rice can also be moulded into a dough, rolled out and baked to create an amazing pizza base. Spread with a homemade tomato sauce, sprinkle mozzarella or goats cheese and load with your favourite vegetable or meat toppings. Serve up for a quick summer party dish that is packed full of flavour.
Use the same technique but instead shape the dough into different-sized portions, such as smaller circles to create cauliflower tortilla wraps for a spicy Mexican feast, and cut into strips for some guilt-free bread sticks.
Portobello mushroom burgers
What could be more summery than tucking into a burger straight from the BBQ? While the burgers themselves aren’t always unhealthy, loading them with bread, cheese and sinful extras can quickly turn a summer favourite into a recipe for disaster.
We understand that a lettuce leaf is no alternative for a bread bun and it certainly won’t support the weight of a good burger. For a more substantial alternative try using two portobello mushrooms as buns. Simply pop the mushrooms in the oven with a little olive oil drizzled over them until they are firm. Take them out and once they are cooled, add a high-quality beef or turkey burger with lettuce, tomato, red onion and a sprinkling of feta cheese.
It’s not the bread that makes a sandwich, but the fillings. But somehow decanting the contents into a salad bowl seems unacceptable. As we enjoy stacking our ingredients up but don’t enjoy the amount of calories and carbs involved, switch the bread for cucumber or celery sticks. Cut the vegetables into thin but wide pieces and load up your fillings - prosciutto ham and goat's cheese make a winning combination.
Noodles may be one of the central components of your favourite takeaways, but there’s no reason why you can’t swap traditional noodles for one of these low-carb alternatives to create a healthy and delicious meal.
Shirataki noodles are a zero-net calorie, zero-net carb, gluten-free alternative to regular noodles. They are a favourite in Japan and China and work perfectly in stir frys, or as an alternative to spaghetti. Once out of the packet they smell slightly of fish, but don’t let that put you off - once you’ve rinsed them the smell will disappear.
Buckwheat noodles, meanwhile, are made from buckwheat flour. Contrary to the name, they actually contain no wheat and are gluten free. They also contain plenty of protein, magnesium and are low-carb.
If you want to get really creative, make your own noodles with ribbons of zucchini (courgette). Create noodle-esque strips using a spiralizer, a peeler will also work just as well. Be sure to squeeze out all of the water before you add them to your meal before you bake them, or fry them. Stir in some pesto for some beautiful guilt-free comfort food.
Despite our high hopes, the British summertime usually consists of more rainy days than anything else. With this in mind, there may be times when you want to indulge in some warm comfort food but don’t want to ruin your healthy eating plan.
Lasagne is always a comfort food favourite, filled with brain-rewarding cheese and carbohydrates. Swap layers of pasta sheets for chopped up zucchini, or aubergine, to create a low-carb alternative to a classic dish. Use mozzarella cheese instead of cheddar for a lower-calorie option.